WAN-IFRA new report: Keep digital subscribers awake and on board

Most publishers thriving in today’s “Digital Subscription Economy” will tell you: the most expensive enemy in this world is churn. That is from Cecilia Campbell, who researched and wrote WAN-IFRA’s just-published report, “Engaged Readers Don’t Churn: Retention Lessons for Digital Subscriptions.”

by Dean Roper | August 23, 2018

In this excerpt from the Introduction to the report, Nick Tjaardstra, our Director of Global Advisory who has spent much of his time at WAN-IFRA focusing on digital reader revenue strategies, highlights some of key issues of the report, which is free for WAN-IFRA members to download.

In a sentence: This report is for pub­lishers seeking best-in-class ideas, strategies, and case studies for retaining long-term digital subscribers.

The days after launching any paid content offer are golden. At the start, you capture your most passionate supporters and a good proportion of your most regular readers.

When Corriere della Sera introduced paid content in January 2016, they grew from zero to 2000 subscribers on the very first day – well before anybody had time to hit the 20-article meter on their paywall.

Publishers have become adept at the next stage – adapting and personalising the offer, testing pricing variants, finding the articles that convert, paying to promote high-performing articles on social channels, targeting user segments, building a relationship with registered users, setting KPIs for the newsroom… the list goes on.

In short, many news publishers are getting quite clever at managing the funnel.

The problem is that digital customers are less loyal than print customers – so far, anyway. (See findings from the Media Insight Project.)

We’ve heard of highly successful and effective media brands with a monthly churn of 12%. That would mean their entire user base turns over in a year.
That number drags down the growth rate until even the most effective conversion campaigns level out to zero.

Advanced publishers have realised that the key to reducing churn is improving engagement. In print, engagement metrics are tricky, needing to be hard-won from user panels or surveys. By contrast, logged-in digital subscribers leave a clear data footprint.

The question is what to do with that data, and that’s what we address here.

Cecilia Campbell has been following the development of digital reader revenue for more than 10 years. She has been in more than 1,000 hours of publisher meetings and workshops, and written hundreds of thousands of words of reports for our eRev group focused on digital subscriptions.

She was the perfect person to produce this report.

Author insights

Here is what Cecilia had to say about some of her research in the report:

“There is a phenomenal amount of work being done across the publishing industry to understand the drivers behind long-term customer retention. There are still more questions than answers it seems.

It was telling that when I talked to Schibsted’s new SVP Consumer Tor Jacobsen at the beginning of the year he said that despite some titles in the group having as many as 15 years experience in reader revenues, the publisher is still on a learning curve and always looking for new ideas.

There may be no clear roadmap to success yet, but best practices are emerging and with them a growing opportunity for a sustainable customer revenue business for news publishers around the world.

We’re in a frenemies industry – use this report to build on the successes of your peers.”

Inside the report

The report’s executive summary features a 6-step quick guide to retention.

Nearly 20 publishers shared insights for the report, with eight featured case studies.

Some of the specific topics addressed, include:

  • Honing the value proposition
  • Driving engagement and shifting KPIs
  • Creating content to keep readers
  • Maximising revenue vs. maximising volume
  • Measuring, predicting and preventing churn
  • Organisation – getting everyone onboard

Upcoming webinar on report takeaways

Cecilia and Nick will be the featured speakers on our next webinar (19 September, 15:00 CET) focused on the report. You can register here.

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